Heb 4:11-13 Let us Strive
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
About two weeks ago Leanna went on a trip and she parked her car at the airport car lot for a few days. When she came back, she had a sense that she needed to check the car tires. But she didn’t see anything. Later that week she told me that the car was making some weird noises. I didn’t listen to her car, rather I assumed it was the brake pads making some noise. So when I drove her car, I didn’t hear anything beyond what I assumed were the brake pads.
Leanna persisted in telling me saying that her car was making weird noises. I heard her, but I didn’t listen to her. I didn’t examine her car. I had plans to check it. I just didn’t have time. You know how life is busy with work, kids, regular chores at the house, then compounded by chores that come with the change of weather.
By the end of the week, Leanna insisted it was more than the brake pads. I said I’ll take your car to work and see if I’ll hear this noise you are describing. As I drove her car to church, I noticed that she was right. (shockingly)
There was a bad noise and it wasn’t the brakes like I thought. As I was driving, I kept thinking that it must be the wheel bearing, because it sounded like a train going over the tracks. As the day move on I was convinced that it was the wheel bearings of the car that needed to be replaced.
However, even though I had now not only heard Leanna and the noise in the car I still had not taken the time to actually examine the wheel yet. My plan was to go home and take the time to carefully examine it.
On my way home the noise got so bad, that I thought it was going to be too late to examine it. I couldn’t even hear the engine or much of anything else while driving. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it home. Her car was vibrating so badly. I was driving all the way home with white knuckles because it seemed like something bad was going to happen at any moment. As I was driving I was just thinking this is not good, but it will be a perfect illustration for this sermon.
By God’s grace, I got home. When I got home I acted on what I heard, which seemed to be the last warning. Therefore, I started to examine the car carefully. As I checked for a bad wheel bearing, I realized that there was something strange on one wheel. There was a lug nut missing, then I checked the remaining three lug nuts, and two of them were very loose. The remaining one lug nut was barely tight. We are not sure exactly what happened, but assume someone attempted to remove her tire while it was in the airport parking lot. The wheel was literally ready to fall off her car!
I am telling you this story neither because you might find it entertaining, nor as a warning to check your tires after parking at the airport. But because it is a great example of hearing but not listening or acting on what we heard.
Here is what we need to hear today. God tells us in these verses how we can strive to enter His rest, that is by spending time examining and studying His word. In this life, our job is to meditate, think, and study God’s word. Now, therefore, let’s do some of that work as we examine these verses, starting with v 11.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
Before we dig into this verse, let’s remember the context of these verses. This section started in Chapter 3:7 with the warning to enter God’s rest. We studied in detail the quote in chapter 3 of Psalm 95, we reviewed some of the contexts of the quote which is pointing to Numbers 14. We heard the warning to not harden our hearts towards God. And we saw the centrality to fear God in order to enter His rest. From these 13 verses in chapter 4, there are only two commandments, to fear God in v 1 and now here in v11, the other commandment is to strive to enter that rest.
Allen a commentator translates this word strive as “Let us make every effort. The idea is “to push on with something zealously” or “let us become zealous”. A Greek dictionary (Louw-Nida) defines it as “to do something with intense effort and motivation—‘to work hard, to do one’s best, to endeavor.’”
This is what we should be doing in this life while we await Christ's return or our death. We should make every effort or strive to enter that rest. In this verse, the author also tells us why we should strive. It says “so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience”
We might ask what sort of same disobedience? Here the author is reminding us of the wilderness generation that was unfaithful to God because of their evil and unbelieving hearts. They heard God but refused to obey God.
Ultimately, the problem of disobedience to God is a heart problem not the fact of hearing or understanding. Let me say that again. It is a heart problem! The wilderness generation is a good example. They had heard God through Moses. They heard God on the mountain. Yet they didn’t obey. It was not because they didn’t hear, nor that they did not understand what God was saying. Rather they decided to respond out of fear of men and lean on their own understanding, and follow their heart rather than respond in faith.
God’s message throughout the centuries to the world has been clearly perceived since the creation of the world. Why do people turn their backs on Jesus and Christianity? It is because their love for themselves, their love for the world, or the things of the world is greater than their love for Christ.
Piper talking on this topic said, “most shipwrecks of faith are not at root intellectual, but rather because I want what I want and Christianity is in the way.”
People will reject Christ because in their hearts they have a stronger desire for something else. Like Piper said, “most shipwrecks of faith are not at root intellectual, but rather because I want what I want and Christianity is in the way.”
Let this never be true of any of us here. Let us always check our hearts and our desires, and make sure they are in submission to Christ. If we let any desire rule our hearts, we will start questioning the goodness of God, because He is not giving us what we think we need. Instead, we start seeing Christ as something that is going to be in the way of this deep desire.
Therefore, we need to strive to enter that rest, making sure that we have hearts that are soft and tender towards God. Putting every desire in subjecting to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of us has a throne in our hearts. Desires, even good desires, such as marriage, children, success, or even ministry, can take priority in our hearts. We need to have Christ always on the throne of our hearts, ruling over everything in us, even good desires,
Matt 10:37-39 “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Christ reigns in your heart if your love and desire for Him are stronger than anything and everything in this world or even leaving this world to join Him!
Here in verse 11, God commanded us to strive, then He tells us the why… so that we may not fall. Then in the next two verses, God tells us how we can strive in this life to enter God’s rest. Because if we are completely honest, none of us love Jesus the way we should all the time. Why don’t we? Because in this life we don’t see the glory of Christ, but we are bombarded with lies of this fallen world and we are vulnerable to the deceitfulness of sin. Therefore, we need to have our minds renewed by God’s word and be transformed by it daily.
Let me repeat… Why don’t we love Jesus the way we should all the time? Because in this life we don’t see the glory of Christ, but we are bombarded with lies of this fallen world and we are vulnerable to the deceitfulness of sin. Therefore, we need to have our minds renewed by God’s word and be transformed by it daily.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Here we see a description of God’s word. This implies that in order for us to strive we need to pay attention and give thought and time to God’s word because it is effective to discern… shine light… or reveal the deepest part of someone’s heart.
God’s Word is LIVING
The first description of the word of God is that it is living. The word is alive because they are the very words from the living God. God spoke and creation came into existence. Through His words, He gave life to everything in creation. In the same way the Bible, as the living word of God, gives life to dead sinful souls. (Rom 10:17) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
1Peter 1:23 “you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”
I have been accused in the past of giving too much emphasis to the importance of God’s word and not enough importance to the Holy Spirit. While others emphasize the Holy Spirit so much that gives the impression of neglecting God’s word. The reality is that we need both, we have to give importance and priority to both. The Holy Spirit uses God’s word to rebuke, correct, train, and convict us.
Jesus said the following about the Holy Spirit in John 14:26 “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
Without the Holy Spirit, we are blind and unable to understand or apply God’s word to our lives. We cannot separate the Holy Spirit, the author, from God’s word. God through His Holy Spirit uses His word to give us life, sanctify us, and sustain us in this life.
Truly we cannot give enough emphasis to God’s word, because it is the instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to transform us as our minds are renewed by His word.
Furthermore, this verse describes God’s word as active.
God’s Word is ACTIVE
The word translated here as active could also be translated as effective. This idea of effectiveness brings to mind what God said about His word in Isaiah.
Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
When the author of Hebrews says that God’s word is active or effective. He means it is not just plain words, but it is active in the hearts of men. God’s word will carry out what God intended. Guthrie, a commentator, describes the word of God as “having the ability to effect change in people. It is not static and passive but dynamic, interactive, and transforming as it interfaces with the people of God.”
Just these two descriptions alone of God’s word as alive and active. We should long to spend more time in it. Because we need to pause and consider how much time we are spending in God’s word. I know life is busy, and it is hard to take the time. Just like I never took the time to examine the tire. But soon I was going to be examining it whether I wanted to or not!
In the same way, if we don’t make it a priority, we will never have the time to examine God’s Word. If we don’t we will one day find ourselves face-to-face with God whether we want to or not. Here is an idea when I have a brief moment, rather than checking our phones for a notification, or Facebook, or email, etc. Why not have the Bible open and read one verse? Then take the time to think about that verse we just read.
Because God’s word is Sharp
God’s word is SHARP
Here in verse 12 the author of Hebrews goes on to describe how active or how effective God’s word is. It is as effective as an extremely sharp sword, or as sharp as a surgeon's knife. It is sharper than the sharpest sword. Just to be certain we understand just how sharp God’s word is the author goes on to describe how sharp. It pierces as far inside as we can imagine.
The point here is not to point to the nature of humanity (soul and spirit) but that God’s word is so sharp that it pierces and divides what would be far beyond what we could imagine. God’s word goes as far inside of us as one would be able to imagine, and separates the joints and marrow. God’s word is able to distinguish between the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Hagner said that “All of these details are concerned only to stress the utter effectiveness of God’s word.”
Guthrie said “The sword imagery emphasizes that while God’s word is a word of promise to those who would enter God’s rest, it is also a discerning word of judgment. Verse 12 asserts that like a sword that cuts and thrusts, the word penetrates and divides, being able to reach into the depths of a person’s inner life. In listing the parts of a person on which the word acts—“soul and spirit, joints and marrow”—the preacher simply proclaims the word’s ability to break past a surface religion to an inner, spiritual reality. Rather than dealing with externals such as religious observance, the penetrating word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
This image of a two-edged sword reminds us of the ability of God’s word to penetrate our inner being as a lethal weapon. Eph 6:17 makes reference to God’s word as a weapon of offense in the spiritual battle.
Then in Rev Jesus' words are referred to as an offensive weapon. Rev 2:12 “‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.” Then Rev 19:15 “15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron.”
God’s word is alive, active, and sharper than a surgeon’s knife. It is the word of God that the Spirit uses to give us life, sustain us, and sanctify us. It is the only offensive weapon that we have against the power of darkness. Just to be clear I have no problem being accused of placing too much emphasis on God’s word. We cannot emphasize it too much; we cannot read it too much. We cannot meditate on it too much. Because it reveals to us who God is, who we are, and how much we have in Christ. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matt 4:4)
The Survival Rule of 3, or “rule of threes”, is a well-known rule of thumb that describes the basic survival rules using the number three. The rule says that you can survive: 3 minutes without air; 3 hours without shelter; 3 days without water; 3 weeks without food.
We could add to this rule that a follower of Christ will not survive without God’s word in 3 places: in our hearts, minds, and mouths. Throughout the centuries of Christian persecution, the enemies' most common tactic is to search and destroy Bibles. Don’t be fooled the most common way the enemy will attack us is by distracting us from spending time in God’s word.
If the sword of God is not in our mouths, we will have little impact on the Kingdom of God. And God’s word cannot be in our mouths if we haven’t allowed it to be stored in our minds and indwelled in a new heart, replacing our heart of stone. We can count on it being effective because God’s word reaches the deepest part of the human being. It discerns between the thoughts and intentions of the heart. It penetrates and exposes hearts before God.
This idea of exposure is the last description of God’s word in v13.
13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
God’s word exposes our hearts
The language here of exposing what is in the heart is similar to what Paul said in 1 Cor 4:5 regarding the coming of the Lord “who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart”
When Christ returns every thought and deed and word will be exposed. Jesus said in Matt 12:34-36 “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”
The context of this verse points out that the words spoken come from the heart. In essence the inner self, our hearts will be fully exposed.
Bruce said the following regarding Heb 4:13: “We may conceal our inner being from our neighbors, and we can even deceive ourselves, but nothing escapes the scrutiny of God; before him, everything lies exposed and powerless. And it is to him, not to our fellowmen or to our own conscience, that our final account must be rendered. Stripped of all disguise and protection, we are utterly at the mercy of God, the Judge of all.”
Therefore, when we spend time in God’s word the Holy Spirit will often give us a glimpse of our sinful heart and convict us of sin. Furthermore, to unbelievers, the sword of the Spirit exposes the darkness, and the Holy Spirit will often use the word to convict of sin and a need for Jesus as our Savior. The immense beauty and redemption is that God doesn’t leave us exposed, instead, He comes and offers freedom and salvation from this bondage to sin and darkness.
I hope you are convicted of the importance of God’s word to your life. However, hearing only is no help if we don’t obey God. I can tell you what God says, but I can’t force you to do anything. It is up to you to act on it, to get in the habit of reading and thinking about what God said.
Remember the story I told you about the car and how I heard but I didn’t take the time to examine, or study the problem? I didn’t give it a priority, therefore I didn’t have time for it. In the same manner, God commands us in these verses not only to hear Him but also to make it a priority to examine what He said, His word. To study. To give time and thought towards His word.
When I heard Leanna I expected that it would take a lot of time and some expertise to fix the situation, however, it took no skill or expertise to find the problem. It is the same way with God’s word. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know His Word. What it takes is for everyone to bend down on our knees and prayerfully examine, read, study, and ponder God’s word. As we do we can ask the author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, to be our helper so that we can understand and apply the truths it contains to our lives.
Living this life without making His Word a priority and taking the time to examine and study, and meditate on God’s word is like when I was driving home with one wheel basically coming off the car. I had white knuckles and I was driving so worried about the car that I couldn’t rest on the way.
However, on the same day after I fix the problem in the car, I drove through the same road to test it. Oh man, it was quite a different drive. I was much more relaxed. I was still paying attention and listening carefully. But I was so more confident, I was able to rest a little bit while on the way.
When we make spending time with God a priority. God will move us beyond just hearing and call us to obedience. This will result in being able to rest in God. It doesn’t mean we won’t have a crisis in our lives and during those moments we might be so shaken that we are not sure, we can only cry out to God for help.
However, for most of our drive in this life. It is our careful, diligent, spending of time in the word that will give us the confidence and the endurance we need to go through this life.